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Barbie Just Shattered A Longstanding The Dark Knight Box Office Record

Life in plastic is indeed fantastic — if you're a Warner Bros. executive. The studio pulled in $155 million domestically over the weekend on the back of "Barbie," with the Monday gross for the Greta Gerwig picture setting a record all on its own by beating out "The Dark Knight" for the studio's Monday title. It's a brave, new Barbie world during a time that couldn't be more dire for Hollywood.

"Barbie," which opened this past weekend, earned $356 million at the global box office, the largest of the year thus far. On Monday alone, it added $26 million, the largest Monday gross in Warner Bros. history. It beats out Christopher Nolan's acclaimed 2008 superhero epic "The Dark Knight" for the title.

That's a double loss for Nolan, whose latest film, "Oppenheimer," opened alongside "Barbie" and came in second for box office earnings over the weekend. Even so, "Oppenheimer" has been praised by critics for its honest examination of the life and times of atomic bomb inventor J. Robert Oppenheimer. It made a respectable $180 million opening, which is not shabby for a prestige drama about a historical figure.

Barbie's success comes at an auspicious time for Hollywood

As the most impactful Hollywood labor action in decades shutters productions across the industry, writers and actors show no signs of kowtowing to studio demands, and top studio brass are undoubtedly relieved at the sudden "Barbie" windfall. Along with "Oppenheimer," the summer's biggest films have proven that artistic vision is what audiences pay to see.

And yet, that vision is precisely what the studios profiting from it have threatened to kill, a major factor in the decisions of both the WGA and SAG to strike until a better deal is offered. The AMPTP, the guild representing major studios in bargaining, refused to back down on its insistence that mostly untested technology, colloquially referred to as "artificial intelligence," be used in the process of writing and filming movies and television. On the writing side, studios hope to generate scripts using large language models, while on the acting side, studios have asked to scan actors' faces, pay them once, and receive rights to use that scan in perpetuity.

For their refusal to accept those terms, SAG and the WGA have forfeited their rights to work in Hollywood for the time being. But as the box office record-breaking success of "Barbie" proves — as does the similar, though less revelatory success of "Oppenheimer" — it is artists who drive profits for Hollywood.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. To learn more about why writers and actors are currently on strike, click here for an up-to-date explainer from our Looper team.